Following Christ for any length of time reveals there are times we will run the race with great strength and easy strides and then there will be times of difficulty and labored climbs. If you are new to the Christian life, you may already expect there will be valleys and mountaintops. Today I want to focus on the valleys--the ones in which you feel a distance from God.
Christ's apostles were not even exempt from the ups and downs of the journey--and they had the advantage of being physically present with the savior. There were days when their judgement was clouded and their hearts were resistant to his teaching. Other days their belief was so real that they were willing to give their lives for their Lord--and many did.
My walk with Christ sees ups and downs too. Does yours? My faith waivers. My heart grows hard. Some days I fail miserably and other days I sense God's strong and powerful arm at work. Yet he is with me everyday whether I feel it or not, because HE is the faithful one. Amen.
Today I offer 5 helps to soften a hard heart. How do I know of these helps? Because they are helpful to me when my own heart is hard. Perhaps they will be helpful to you too.
Really, they are just some scenarios to run through when your heart is resistant or distant from God.
1. Admit you have a hard heart.
A good first step during these times is the admission that I do indeed have a hard heart and I need a savior--not only for my eternity, but for my today. I know who I am apart from Christ and it 'aint pretty. I need his cleansing grace to work in my heart and in my home daily.
Admitting when I am out of step with the Spirit is the beginning of getting back in step with the Spirit.
2. Assess where the root is.
Where is this root of bitterness coming from? Is there some grief, disappointment, offense, or despair which is driving my discontent? Is there some sin I am treasuring? Is there an area of my life that I am concealing from my close friends and family? Where have I withdrawn from fellowship and accountability--and why?
3. Examine how it is affecting your life currently and what you will do about it.
How is this hard heart currently affecting my life? Do I feel distant from God? Are my relationships suffering? Do I have a desire to read God's word and spend time with him? Are my prayers muffled? Do I curse man? Is my heart gripped with fear? Do I have a complaining spirit rather than a grateful and joyful one?
And if any of these are true, what will I purpose to do about it? How will I wrangle my heart into submission to God's word? Are there any things I am using to fuel a hard heart? What kind of music satisfies me? How am I filling my free time? What does my mind dwell on? If anything such as these is fueling my hardness, I need to be willing to put it off. Then I need to replace it with the things of the Lord.
4. Remind yourself how great God is.
A hard heart can wrongfully bring about a sense of boredom with the word or a "been there, done that" attitude. But surely if our minds ever conceive such a thing, it is because we do not know or have forgotten how great is our God. Any dullness I feel in God's word is because I am the dull one. He is not!
I do well to focus on scriptures that draw my thoughts to his greatness, to Christ's sacrifice, to verses which remind me of my need for a savior, and that my works are only good because of His righteousness.
Listening to worshipful music, meditating on verses pointed toward my sin and struggle, and memorizing scripture are all ways to draw thoughts toward Him and away from self.
5. Confess and pray.
A broken and contrite heart is a sacrifice the Lord will not despise. When I become aware of the resistance in my heart, I need to confess and turn from it. Depending on how deeply embedded the bitterness is or how deep the wound, this could be a repeated process and may require much prayer. But for ongoing daily trials, keeping short accounts with God is a significant help. Telling another person or two is also helpful to bring it into the light and call it out for what it is.
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
In Christ's love, Erika